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Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2008

Commission to lay foundation for NPT review


Staff writer

The world faces a pressing need to monitor civilian use of nuclear technology and maintain strong discipline in the face of weapons proliferation, former Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi said Monday in Tokyo.

Kawaguchi, announcing the creation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament Commission, said Japan has a huge role to play in nuclear issues.

"As the only country in the world to have been victimized by nuclear weapons, it is essential that we contribute to this process," Kawaguchi told a news conference.

Japan and Australia, which boasts the world's largest uranium reserves, agreed to cochair and set up the commission during a June summit between Prime Ministers Yasuo Fukuda and Kevin Rudd.

The commission is aiming to hold its first meeting in October after identifying about 15 appropriate members to invite to the talks.

It will look to lay the foundation for the 2010 review conference of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, or NPT, and strengthen the treaty's cause.

While India and Pakistan declared themselves nuclear powers a decade ago and the NPT has shown signs of erosion, Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans, who will cochair the commission with Kawaguchi, said Japan and Australia can give the agreement new meaning.

There is an "opportunity to add real value" for the commission in the face of challenges, he said, as climate change issues have spurred debate on the use of civil nuclear energy and recent calls for nuclear disarmament in the United States, led by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, could advance nonproliferation.

The two met with Fukuda in the morning, with Fukuda pledging full support, Kawaguchi said.

He and Evans agreed that the recent U.S.-India civil nuclear deal poses a "big challenge." It would allow India to buy fuel and nuclear technology from the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

India must strike a deal with the NSG, an organization of nuclear material-exporting countries that includes Japan and Australia, before the pact is sent to the U.S. Congress.

"This is a complex issue which could undermine the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty," Kawaguchi said, adding that the commission will keep a close watch and continue to study the case.



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